Melvin Wong, Ph.D.
Western Morality and Educational Development, a Future View
© Melvin W. Wong, Ph.D.
This presentation will begin with a brief background of the moral history of the early Americans to the present educational developments under this influence.
The Early American Settlers
As early as 1585, the first British attempt to establish a colony in what is now the United States took place. Sir Walter Raleigh sent settlers to Roanoke Island, off the coast of North Carolina. But this attempt at colonization failed. This was followed by a small band of about 100 British colonists reached the coast near Chesapeake Bay in 1607. They founded Jamestown, the first permanent British settlement in North America. During the next 150 years, a steady stream of colonists came to America and settled near the coast. Most of them were British, but they also included people from France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, and other countries. With these early settlers, they brought together their diversed customs and cultural backgrounds.
The American colonists also developed political practices and social beliefs that have had a major influence on the history of the United States. They made great strides toward democratic government, and they placed a high value on individual freedom and on hard work as a means of survival and getting ahead.
The Calverts, a family of wealthy English Roman Catholics, founded Maryland. Catholics were persecuted in England, and the Calverts wanted to provide a place where Catholics could enjoy freedom. The people of Virginia and Maryland made important strides toward democracy and individual liberty. The Virginians appealed to the London Company for a voice in their local government. The company wanted to attract newcomers to its colony, and so it agreed. In 1619, it established the House of Burgesses, the first representative legislature in America. Maryland attracted both Catholic and Protestant settlers. In 1649, the Calverts granted religious freedom to people of both faiths. This was the first religious toleration act in North America.
In New England, Puritans, originally financed by English merchants, founded the New England Colonies. Puritans were English Protestants who faced persecution because of their opposition to the Church of England, Britain's official church. In 1620, a group of Separatists (Puritans who had separated from the Church of England) and other colonists settled in New England. Called Pilgrims, they founded Plymouth Colony--the second permanent British settlement in North America. Between 1628 and 1630, Puritans founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony at what are now Salem and Boston.
Over the course of these settlements, the Puritans seemed to have the strongest influence on the people at the time. Puritan beliefs developed from the teachings of religious reformers, such as John Wycliffe and John Calvin. Calvin was a leader of the Reformation, the religious movement of the 1500's that gave rise to Protestantism. The Puritans emphasized Bible reading, prayer, and preaching in worship services.
The Puritans shaped religion, social life, and government in North America to their ideals. Their strong belief in education led them to establish Harvard and Yale as colleges and to require a system of grammar schools in the colonies. The Puritans organized their government according to the teachings that they found in the Bible and on the basis of their English experience. This became the foundation of educational philosophy at the time. For example, the New England Primer, the first textbook for the first-graders used the Bible extensively to teach the alphabet, it was considered that the contents were very similar to Sunday school curriculum.
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